Although it doesn't have a big population or size, the thing that Croatia can be proud of is the natural resources it possesses. The richness of Mediterranean protected areas as well as the ones in the Continental parts that evolved in diverse climate, environment, and vegetative conditions with minimal or no human influence on their existence is the main comparative advantage of the country. And the reason why is Croatia a top tourism destination!
It is the kept, unique, and diverse eco-system that inhabits in all the parts of the country the thing that gives Croatia such a high remark in the notebooks of most travelers. And with so many endemic and protected species, Croatia is a valuable area for scientific research. The reasons behind the rich biodiversity are specific geographical position, the influence of various natural and time-based forces, a small population, a great amount of natural resources, and a high degree of ecological awareness.
That is what confirms the statement that Croatia is much more than sea, sun, and beaches making it a hit tourism destination throughout the year. There are many comparative advantages: 101 "Blue flag" beaches, the most invented coastal line on the Adriatic sea with more than 1200 islands, a large number of sunny days that light up top destinations, and the rich tourist and natural offer. But, the biggest national pride are the country's national parks and nature parks!
They are geographically located by the coastline or in the inner parts of the country in the mountain and seaside area and that is why they are so unique and different from one another. And with so much to explore and thanks to the rich offer, you won't feel bored or monotonous as you visit them one by one. Because a visit to any of these untouched pearls is a "one of a kind" experience you won't forget. Rich plant and animal life created for thousands of years, top gastronomy offer, activities for everybody, pleasant hosts, crystal clear air, peace, and leisure are a guarantee of a visual, memorable, and relaxing experience that is going to make you fall in love with every of 8 national parks and 13 park forest that exist in Croatia!
8 green pearls of Croatia
Now we have your attention, it is time to meet the Croatian hidden gems. From the south to the north we present you with: the "Green island" of Mljet, Krka in the Šibenik Riviera, Paklenica and North Velebit in the Velebit mountain range, the Kornati in the North-Dalmatian region, Risnjak as the heart of Lika and Gorski Kotar, the unbelievable Brijuni of Istria, and the main star, the Plitvice Lakes. No matter if you are traveling alone or with your family, looking for adrenaline or a peaceful vacation, you will find something for yourself!
Besides the rich offer of content and activities, every of the aforementioned national parks has a rich offer of accommodation units. They vary in price and offer. So you can implement a visit to any of the national parks with all the other activities on your vacation "bucket list". Mountain climbing in the morning, followed by a romantic stroll by the sea and enjoyment in the sunset? It doesn't get better than that, would you agree? Nature is our biggest wealth, and Croatia is in regards to that a truly rich country. That is why all of us, including all of you travelers, to keep it, preserve it so the future generations can also enjoy it as much as we did! Because taking care of Planet Earth as our only home we share with others should be a top priority for everybody!
The confirmation of that wealth is seen in mere facts. 10% of the country is under special protection. More than 1000 km2 area is covered by national parks! They are one of eight categories of protected areas, and the highest level under special governmental management. So, let us start meeting the biggest natural beauties of Croatia!
National park Mljet
Croatia's most southern national park is located on its most southern island. It is the "Green Island" of Mljet, the eighth biggest island in Croatia. It is also the biggest island of the Dubrovnik archipelago and one of many Mediterranean protected areas. Its length is just 37 kilometers meaning it will take you about an hour drive to reach from one point of the island to another one.
The national park alone covers one-third of the island and carries the nickname "Odysseus island". By the legend, Mljet was the island where the most famous mythological passenger lived with his mistress after being held in a cave for 7 years. It got its status in 1960.
The biggest attraction of the Mljet national park is the two lakes on the island: Big and Small lakes. It is a natural phenomenon created by the co-existence of endogenic and exogenic forces in the past. The sea and water are mixing constantly and the sea changes its path every 6 hours. There is a rich coral world that inhabits the lakes and is an indicator of high sea pureness, just like periska which is endangered species that lives in the Small lakes.
It is considered that the island was inhabited 4000 years ago by the Illyrian tribe. For most of history, it was private land owned by the church and the benedictine order. The living witness of those times is the magnificent church and monastery of Saint Mary from the 12 century. It is a natural phenomenon since it is an island located in the middle of the lake that is - on the island itself! You can reach it by boat as a part of an organized tour that is included in the entry price. Many poets, artists, and writers found inspiration here which is concluded by the big and rich library and historical documents the church is full of.
A thousand years old history of the mysterious Mljet island is also seen in the oral and written heritage which legends and myths are being passed on by generations. That is especially seen in the legacy of picturesque traditional villages like Korito and Požure that tell the story of rich history, mentality, customs, and a way of life in this areas. Besides that, these places are rich archeological foundations of centuries-old legacy you have a top opportunity to explore.
While visiting the Mljet National Park, make sure to visit the Roman palace with baths, two Roman basilicas, fortresses, ship dock, and the Odysseus cave on the south. In the cave, the bottom is connected with the sea and it is possible to reach it since the boats are tied to the end of the pit. That is a top tourist attraction for most of the visitors to experience and visit!
Besides that, on the island are located four wells that never dry out that are worth visiting and photographing. Of course, while you are there, explore the saint Paul's passage that fisherman believed protects them and will give them a better catch that day.
Flora and Fauna
The island is mostly covered by mountain and Mediterranean protected areas. That means the plant life is not so rich, but every one of them has its use, especially among the locals. It can be a food supplement or natural medicine, but in every household, you will find at least one specimen. There are 5 types of tree communities that inhabited the island mostly with oak and pine trees. Also, you will find the most unique flora and fauna and an indented coast with many cliffs, reefs, bays, and islands that leave no one untouched.
85% of the island area is covered by trees and more than 50 protected plant species. Mostly those are orchids, 30 types of them! If you go scuba diving or snorkeling, you will get to see posidonija -a protected species that created underwater plant life and an indicator of sea purity.
Besides the rich flora, National park Mljet can be proud of its great biodiversity of animal species. 300 protected animal types inhabit the area. Between them, there are 150 clam species with the most famous periska and Jacobs cap, corals, fishes, snails, and bulbs. The air is dominated by birds and a large number of endemic species like the gray falcons and Medditerranian seagulls. On the island, there are a couple of types of bats, and you can see on the ground the protected white hedgehogs.
History and rich biodiversity are not the only things to see and explore on Mljet. The whole island is full of beautiful beaches, clean sea, bays, and coves that look like they were drawn or created on a movie set. Be sure to visit Zaobralo Prijeslo, the shallow Blace, Grabova, Polače, Saplunaru, Mali Most, or Limun that will give you an answer to why was Mljet the first protected area in Croatia!
How to arrive?
Mljet is a part of the Dubrovnik and South Dalmatian aquarium and is connected by regular sea lines with Pelješac and Dubrovnik. Besides that, there are catamaran lines from Split, Hvar, and Korčula. There is always an option of arriving by your boat. Polače or Pomena are the docks to departure to become one of 100 000 visitors that discover this magical area every year.
Just 1100 citizens live on the island so you will have your peacetime as much as you want it. For an active vacation, try out one of many possibilities on the island like canoeing, cycling, underwater diving, or mountain climbing that are the best way to meet the beauties of Mljet.
The entrance fee for the Mljet National Park is around 100 kunas and includes a ferry ride to the island and monastery. There are three entries to the park, and that are Polače, Pomena, and Vrbovica. While you are on the island, be sure to try out local delicacies and wine, olive oil, and goat cheese. Their centuries-old recipe is carried on for generations and is a visible symbol of the gastronomic offer of South Dalmatia.
While you are there, don't just visit the national park alone. For a full experience, take a trip around the island and discover it. During the summer, Mljet becomes the center of culture, art, movie festival, and music events. The offer of accommodation capacities is rich just like the offer of content. You will definitely find something for yourself depending on the financial possibilities. Apartments, rooms, houses for rest and studios, on Mljet you will surely find something for you and your travel buddies!
Krka national park
In the heart of North Dalmatia, 10 kilometers from Šibenik, is located the beautiful Krka river and the same-named national park. Krka National Park got its status in 1985., which makes it the second youngest national park. It is 72 kilometers long and consists of 7 magnificent sedre waterfalls that were created as the river Krka ran through the karst area of inner Dalmatia.
Before the slopes, you can see the silver necklaces - a phenomenon that the water creates by its rippling that creates a specific silver color before ending up in the waterfalls. Park Krka is a natural phenomenon because its energy "releases" 500 000 liters of water in the heart of a mountain and water-dry area with magnificent slopes light Manojlovac which is a symbol of rebellion against the no-water rocky area. The most famous waterfall is Skradinski Buk consisted of 17 sedre steps which is a famous place for photographing for every visitor!
This area is a true paradise for everybody that loves history. So, during your visit to Park Krka, don't forget to see the Oziđana cave with the Neolithic remains. After that, climb on the sightseeing top located 200 meters and explore the Hollow church and the remainings of the Roman camp Burnum. With remaining arches and amphitheater that could hold up to10 000 people! That is why until today Roman games are being held as a way of celebrating the ancient culture and a way of life in these areas.
There are two historical fortresses located over Park Krka: Trošenj and Nevčen as proof of the military and war history of this area throughout the centuries. The Krka valley is green and fertile which is why it has been inhabited from the earliest times. That is why there are many watermills like the one on the Roški Slope which is considered the most famous ethnographic locality of Dalmatian Innerland.
The area of great historical significance since the Ancient times
Since the early days, the area around the Krka river has had great religious importance to its local population. Maybe the most important locality is the Carigradska Draga - a monastery that was a center of the orthodox religion in this area. Besides the slopes, the most famous attraction is the lake and island Visovac with the same-named church and the Francis monastery. Today it is the place of pilgrimage, archeological foundings, library, and a botanical garden with more than 200 plant types.
Park Krka is full of rich biodiversity, on land and on the sea. More than 1022 types of plants live here, three Forrest communities, the only center in Croatia for hawk training, 10 endemic types of fishes, 225 types of birds are just part of the rich eco-system. Perunika is the most famous species found here. It is a symbol of Krka and Croatia that has made this area into a natural habitat of the highest category. Human fish, vipers, endemic types of lizards are just some of the protected wildlife that lives in the cohabitation with otters, deers, wild cats, and bats that live here.
There is a rich underground world inhabited on Park Krka. 65 caves and pits are located in the national park alone. The best ones to explore are Miljacka 2, Jazinka, and Oziđana Cave. You can take a special tour and get to meet the rich world living underneath the surface. After that, climb back and have a stroll through an 8 km long educational road and reveal all the natural beauties of North Dalmatia!
You can come easily to Krka without worrying about parking space. Park Krka is connected to most destinations and locations that offer organized trips from all of Dalmatia. The prices vary from 30 to 200 which include a ferry ride through the national park. There are two entrances to the park, the routes are about 2 hours long after which you can have a swim in the river alone!
Untouched nature, a rich plant and animal life, history and cultural heritage, the top gastronomy offer, good management, and many sightseeing routes are just some of many reasons why a visit to Park Krka this year should be an unavoidable route for you!
Paklenica National Park
On 95 kilometers square feet in the heart of the mountain area is located the second oldest national park in Croatia, Paklenica. This adventurist and mountain climbing paradise is the home of the highest spots of Velebit: Vaganski vrh and Sveto Brdo, and the two canyons of Velebit mountain, Velika and Mala Paklenica.
75% of the Paklenica national park is covered by forest and is home to many autochthonous species like the black pine tree and the old beech trees. They create the most beautiful natural contrast to the greyness of the rocks and mountains. That is why there are many protected autochtonus species like zvončić, likovac, and bijela pjeskarica. This dry rocky area almost lost its forest community which was one of the reasons why it got the national park status so early in 1949.
Fauna is diverse because of the rocky area that is split by the mountains that created separated and isolated habitats on Paklenica. Here you can find 258 types of birds like the golden eagle and gray hawk, 30 reptile species, 20 bat types , and rich wildlife which is a symbol of the national park. Wolves, bears, wild cats, and lynxes wander freely on one of their last natural habitats on Earth and are under maximum protection.
From 1100 walking routes in Croatia, 70 of them are located on the Velebit mountain, including Paklenica and North Velebit! Their length is 150 kilometers that are specially marked by a trekking map with more than 400 paths. On the other hand, Paklenica has 115 speleological objects like Manita Peć, Bezimenjača valley, and Vodarica pit. The most famous spot for alpinists is the Anića Kuk that every May becomes the center of an alpinist rally where amateur alpinists try to conquer our wild and demanding mountain!
For adventurists, but also recreational adventure lovers!
If you are looking for an active vacation but in a little safer environment, then you don't have to worry about a thing. Three educational roads that lead to the mountain house, rafting on the Zrmanja river, off-road adventures, guided cave and mountain exploring, extreme cycling are just a part of the offer. Besides that, a visit to localities like the castle Večka, the Church of Saint Peter, and the Chapel of Saint John will give you an insight into the history of these areas. The underground world of Paklenica, with its system of tunnels and bunkers from WWII and the Cold War, spa center, and the very best gastronomy offer will leave you breathless!
Why visit Paklenica? First of all, it is cheap (entrance fee is between 20 and 60 kunas), accommodation can be found in the mountain and coastal area, it is well traffic connected and close to most of the cities and destinations. Since you are visiting a mountain area, be sure to bring your gear, food, water, mobile phone, and charger, take us as many maps as there is, and inform someone where you are going. Take care of the environment and check the camping options.
Although Paklenica is for the brave and experienced, this mountain is open for all interested guests. It is ideal to escape the everyday stress and relaxation in peace, nature, and the untouched wilderness. On such a little space you will get to discover the great temperature amplitudes, different climate conditions, and biodiversity adjusted to hard conditions of life. With existing historical artifacts like the Sheppard houses and mirila, religious objects from the 18 century that tell the tale of a hard, but still interesting and unique life underneath the mountain that "gives and creates life".
Near the national park, there are a couple of abandoned villages, an old mill, an etno house, and an educational center. They will tell you more about the culture, way of life and the tradition of this area, as well as the mentality of the locals. So, prepare for an adventure because Paklenica will give you a vacation from paradise if you give it a chance to meet! She hides secrets, but reveals them to everybody that shows interest!
Risnjak national park
The third oldest national park in Croatia with more than 20 000 visitors annually is Risnjak. It is a protected forest area and a hydrographical natural artifact of nature with the largest population of forests in Croatia located in the greenest part of Croatia. It was announced as a national park in 1953. and is consisted of two massives - Risnjak and Snježnik. Both are bigger than 1500 meters and are just 3 kilometers far away from one another. In the hills of this massives runs the river Kupa which well is one of the most powerful and most invented ones in Croatia!
Park area is 63 km2 big and 70% of it is under strict protection thanks to the good management . There are 14 forest and 30 plant communities on Risnjak, mostly fir and beech forest that makes this area valuable for scientific research, mostly biological. Take a stroll through the educational path called Leska which is 4 kilometers long with 23 stops to discover the most beautiful parts of the park. There you will have the very best view of Gorski Kotar, the Alps, and Kvarner. For the bravest, reach to the top and discover Bijelu Stijenu, a forest habitat under the most maximum protection where the living world has evolved completely alone, with any human intervention!
Besides the mountains, the most fascinating is the well of the Kupa river located underneath the rocks alone. Several underground rivers fill the lake from where starts the journey of this magnificent river. The river Kupa is the only river with its birth house that you can visit to explore the biological and hydrographical importance of the river for the eco-system which is tightly connected for thousands of years. You can find many historical villages in the river valley that have a big cultural, social, and identity role in the life of this area.
The natural wealth in the hearth of the mountain and rock area
Although a mountain area, Risnjak has a rich plant and animal life thanks to the Kupa river. 1148 types and sub-types of plants are found here, including the protected Lilys, stolisnik, korljan, and runolist. Fauna is equally rich. More than 100 types of birds, butterflies, mountain goats, all the way to the wild beasts like the brown bear, wolf, wild cat, and lynx that gave Risnjak its name. They are very rare and only 40 of them are left in the national park. That is why their survival is a top priority for everybody.
Besides being a mountain, Risnjak is not a challenging, but an approachable destination that can be visited by everybody.A place where the mountains and sea collide, two great natural forces that created together with an unforgettable environment and nature. For family and recreationalists, take one of the 40 km long cycling routes or one of four walking routes, try out sport fish hunting, paragliding, and bird and wilderness watching. And all of that for 45 kunas for a ticket!
Risnjak is a heaven for history lovers. Pass through the ancient caravan routes from the Illyric and Roman times such as the Frankopan and the Roman road, and visit the Goran house of knowledge where all the experience, knowledge, stories, legends, and myths of the old days are collected in one place. There is the 140 kilometers long cave Lokvarska, Zeleni Vir waterfall, and the neighboring mountain Guslica with old military bases.
The comparative advantage of Risnjak is the great traffic connection, sea closeness (15 km), a great number of natural resources, and good location. Istra, Kvarner, Zagreb, and Dalmatia are just a couple of driving hours from one another what makes it ideal for all that want to find out something new, outside the traditional tourist destinations. One of the last habitats for predators and untouched forests without big crowds is a great invitation to come!
So, be brave and get to meet the "lungs of Croatia" and discover the rich wilderness and plant life, unique examples of mountain vegetation that was created by the nature itself which made Risnjak so special and a true paradise for all nature lovers!
This is not the end!
If we have interested you and attracted your attention, let us just say that this is not the end. We have given you a lot of information, and there is more yet to come! Stay with us and in the second part discover the remaining natural pearls of Croatia. Because there is no fun in revealing everything? Stay with us, follow us on social media, and our web page, Adriatic.hr for more information! The decision is yours, and we will make sure you have the best accommodation for you to enjoy a dream vacation in the untouched natural environment or one of many Mediterranean protected areas!
Nature Parks of the Adriatic 10/08/2018